With Christmas nearly upon us my dad asked if the family could chip in and help buy a new PC for him. He does a bit of photo editing which is mainly just scanning old slides to then tidy up and repair. Doing this on a lower resolution 13″ laptop can be pretty tedious!
I’ve built more PCs then I care to count over the years but rarely in such small cases, I found it quite time consuming doing the relevant research on product dimensions – not to mention hunting for others who may have built similar to get an idea of their set-ups (or pictures showing cabling and cooler fittings).
Here’s what I eventually put together, for reference the budget was around £800 all in –
Case: Fractal Design Core 500
My dad wanted something as small as possible that wouldn’t compromise too much on performance – or cause the cost to increase drastically. I’ve used a lot of Fractal Design cases in the past and this one lived up to usual standards! Very well made with a lot of hardware support for such a tiny case.
Motherboard / CPU / RAM: ASUS Z170I Pro Gaming / Intel i5 6600K / Corsair Vengeance
I have to admit I tend to have brand preferences when it comes to my IT gear, ASUS motherboards definitely being a current favourite. The Z170I Pro Gaming board was perfect, it ticked all the right boxes (built-in wireless being a primary need) so was added to the shopping list straight away.
The processor I had a little dilemma over, cost wise the Intel i7 6700 (non-k) was about the same as the Intel i5 6600K. The two biggest differences between them put simply are that the i7 adds Hyper-Threading (HT), whereas the i5 is unlocked allowing for overclocking. Ultimately I went with the i5 as reading around the primary application in use for the photo editing will be Lightroom, which doesn’t appear to scale all that well past 4 cores making HT a little pointless.
A little caveat with the RAM – I had ordered some Corsair 16GB DDR4 Vengeance LPX 2666MHz (CMK16GX4M2A2666C16) sticks, to my surprise the PC didn’t initially boot with both sticks installed! I got pretty nervous at this point as it was probably the first PC to fail to boot on me after I’d built it. Thankfully the ASUS board has QLEDs to indicate boot status which reported RAM was currently the fault. Taking one of the sticks out the PC booted happily, from here I configured the BIOS to use the XMP settings from the RAM, installed the other stick and it was good to go.
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U12S
Here’s one of the main items that I seemed to take forever deciding on! Initially I was looking at AIO water coolers like the options by Corsair or NZXT, unfortunately every image I could find for similar builds all showed the larger 240mm rads being installed along the top of the case. With the need for an optical drive I’d have to install smaller 120/140mm rads on the back of the case, yet with clearance being quite slim for the motherboards backplane I wasn’t really tempted to gamble on it fitting properly. The Noctua seemed a good compromise, but I was still pretty nervous on fan clearance given cabling needs for all the other components.
Storage: 500GB Samsung 850 EVO 2.5″ / 2TB Western Digital Blue 3.5″
Nothing too amazing here, the Samsung SSD will be for the OS and Applications. It will also be for the Lightroom cache/thumbnail items to help speed along the workflow. The 2TB drive is then for image storage. Both are quite good price to performance offerings.
I did also install a BD-ROM drive that I had lying around.
Graphics: EVGA GTX 950 SC Gaming
Really nice little compact card, managed to pick this up in a Black Friday sale so as it was £30 cheaper then alternatives it made sense.
PSU: EVGA 650W SuperNOVA GS Fully Modular
Again nothing too special here, it was also on sale during Black Friday events so at £50 was a good buy.
So, here it is all built and working happily! I’m really impressed with the Fractal case, I wouldn’t say there’s any specific cable management features to the case but the layout has meant you can very easily tuck cables out the way and cable tie them.
Now I just have to wrap it!